Author: rpg13003

2017 Goldwater Nominees

Each year, universities may nominate up to four sophomores or juniors to compete in the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship Competition.  For more information about UConn’s nomination process and the scholarship itself, click HERE.  This year’s nominees include one sophomore and three juniors from a variety of STEM disciplines.  Each satisfied the Goldwater’s criteria of academic excellence, demonstrate research experience and potential, and the desire to earn a PhD in their field.  Also vital is the strong support of their faculty mentors. Nominees will have until January 27, 2017 to complete the national application.  Results will be posted at or around April 1, 2017.

Tyler Daddio (ENG ‘18, CLAS ‘18) from Beacon Falls, CT, is a STEM scholar pursuing a B.S. in mathematics and dual B.S.E./M.S. degrees in computer science and engineering. He is planning on earning a Ph.D. in computer science following his graduation from UConn. Tyler first began working with Dr. Ion Mandoiu of the Computer Science and Engineering Department in the final months of his senior year of high school during which he aided in writing XML wrappers to port various bioinformatics tools traditionally used on the command line to a graphical web interface. Ever since, Tyler’s research has primarily focused on computational methods for improving cancer vaccine design, notably through the characterization of the T cell receptor repertoire. As a Holster Scholar, he spent his first summer at UConn developing an algorithmic approach to elucidate T cell receptor αβ pairs from pooled DNA sequencing data. Tyler has since expanded the scope of this project with the aim of creating a three-stage bioinformatics pipeline to aid in the selection of cancer neoepitopes for use in the design of personalized cancer vaccines. He was recently selected as a 2017 University Scholar and plans to complete the development of this pipeline before his graduation. Tyler has also received an IDEA grant to continue producing educational computer science videos on his YouTube channel, CoderTheTyler. He finds great joy in teaching others and, in his first two years at university, has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant both for undergraduate and graduate computer science courses. He is also serving as a Peer Research Ambassador through which he hopes to inspire other undergraduates to get involved in research. Tyler is the treasurer both for the UConn Student Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and for Street Performers Club (for which he is also a co-founder and head unicycle enthusiast). He is also serving as the student organizer for the UConn ACM International Collegiate Programming Competition (ICPC) team. When he can find time to procrastinate, he does so by working on any one of his numerous yet somewhat secretive side projects.

Alyssa Matz (CLAS ’19) from Cheshire, CT, is an honors student majoring in molecular and cellular biology, minoring in chemistry, with plans to achieve a Ph.D. after graduation. She aims to conduct and apply research in genomic, epigenomic, and metagenomic changes to humans and associated microbes that lead to disease. Alyssa currently interns in the molecular oncology lab of Dr. Daniel Rosenberg of UConn Health. She contributes to multiple projects to develop chemopreventive agents for primary colorectal cancer with a focus on nutritional modulation through whole walnut consumption. Beginning the spring of freshman year and continuing in the summer, she performed histopathological analyses on mice models to determine the effects of varying dietary walnut levels on a cancer pathway driven by inflammation and presented the findings at university symposia. She is currently leading the continuation of this investigation by analyzing changes in the microbiome and epigenetic hydroxylmethylcytosine levels before and after inflammation and the effects of walnut consumption. Other projects include evaluating the importance of macrophage-derived mPGES-1 in tumorigenesis of mouse models and characterization of abnormal crypt foci (ACF) in normal human colons. Freshman year, as a Holster Scholar, she developed a novel research project into invasive plant biological control independent of an established lab. The summer-long experiment yielded significant implications to the control of the invasive plant Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife), a major contributor to the degradation of North American wetland ecosystems. She investigated chemical enhancements to the established bio-control system using Galerucella spp. beetles. This work was presented at the 2016 Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group Symposium and is currently under consideration for publication in The Journal of Life Sciences. She is also a recognized Babbidge scholar. Outside of academics, she works as a student partner to UConn for the online platform Wiley Plus and as a veterinarian technician assistant at Animal Medical Care of CT. She is an accomplished painter, dancer, and runs in the UConn running club.

Vincent Pistritto (CLAS, SFA, ’18) is an Honors student from Woodbury, CT pursuing a dual degree in chemistry and music. Upon graduation, he intends on pursuing a Ph. D. in chemistry with the ultimate goal of working to develop efficient, robust, and environmentally friendly routes to active pharmaceutical ingredients. As an undergraduate, he has worked in the laboratory of Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater looking to perform oxidative functionalization in a manner that is safer for the environment. In particular, his research looks to expand the reaction profile of an environmentally friendly oxidant commonly known as Bobbitt’s Salt. As part of his 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship provided by the Department of Chemistry, Vincent investigated the cleavage of silyl ethers. This work has since been published in the journal Synlett as a way in which a typical two step procedure could be performed in a single reaction. More recent work has consisted of the synthesis of a variety of N-acyl azoles using Bobbitt’s Salt. This research was recently accepted and will be published shortly in the journal Organic Letters. In the summer of 2016, Vincent worked as a Summer Student Worker at Pfizer Inc. in Groton, CT as a member of the process chemistry team working towards the development of cross-electrophile coupling. Vincent was also named University Scholar in December 2016, the university’s highest distinction. As a part of his independent research project he will look to merge photoredox catalysis with a derivative of Bobbitt’s Salt to form trifluoromethyl ketones, a group with noted pharmaceutical value. Outside of the laboratory, Vincent is active as a member of the University of Connecticut Wind Ensemble as a clarinet player and also serves as the lead student coordinator of Honors Initiatives for Prospective Students (HIPS).

Nick Russo (CLAS ’18) is an Honors Student and STEM scholar majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology, with a focus on ornithology and forest community ecology. Since his freshman year, Nick has been working in the lab of Dr. Morgan Tingley, conducting research on the potential for birds to disperse hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that devastates eastern hemlock forests. Nick received an IDEA Grant in summer 2016 to monitor adelgid carrying rates of birds in hemlock forests, and presented this research, and his Holster Scholar research, at the national Wilson Ornithological Society meeting in March, 2017. In November 2016, the results of his Holster Scholar research on adelgid transfer rates between hemlock branches and birds were published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Entomology.  As president of the UConn Birding Club and a representative of ECOalition, Nick takes a strong interest in citizen science and environmental awareness. As part of these organizations, he is working to implement a university general education requirement in environmental literacy and sustainability, and undertake a Connecticut Ornithological Society-funded project to ensure continued management of the Mansfield Community Garden for migratory birds. He received the Stewart L. and Morris K. Udall Scholarship in 2016 for his efforts, and was recently named a University Scholar. Nick works at the Writing Center, and in his spare time, he likes to bird, run, swim, and speak French.


Meet the 2015 Udall Nominees

Each year, on behalf of the University of Connecticut, the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships nominates students to compete nationally for the prestigious Udall Scholarship.  Named for Representative Morris K. Udall and his brother, Secretary Stewart L. Udall, this $5,000 undergraduate scholarship is awarded to high-achieving students from any discipline who are either passionate about the environment or  are Native American students committed to tribal healthcare or tribal policy, following legacy of the Udalls, who supported legislation to protect both the environment and Native American interests.  Recipients are also invited into a strong network of committed environmentalists and Native American advocates.  If you are a UConn student and want more information about the scholarship and how to seek nomination, start here.

Jessica Eileen Griffin (CLAS ’17), from Salem, CT, is a junior honors student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental science.  Her environmental research revolves around studying and preserving marine invertebrates.  She writes, “I want to become the Jane Goodall of marine worms.” She has been a research intern for Dr. Hans Dam in the Marine Sciences Department at UConn’s Avery Point campus.  She has also studied gene expression in stickleback fish in the laboratory of Dr. Eric Schultz in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and volunteered in the laboratory of Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. In addition to her commitment to environmental research, Jessica is passionate about environmental education and advocacy. At UConn, she has served as a Research Assistant for the GlobalEd2 project with Dr. Scott Brown at the Neag School of Education, where she worked with middle school students to address the topic of water scarcity at a UN simulation.  Also at UConn, she has been a member of the Geology Club and the Wildlife Society and volunteered for an anthropological dig at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. In addition to being an active member of EcoHusky, Jessica is an intern for UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy, where she has worked on the Tree Campus U.S.A. recertification and reviewed data for the Sierra Club Cool Schools survey, among other environmental policy initiatives. Last December, she was among a select handful of student activists from UConn selected to travel to the UN Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21), the international conference on climate change policy.  This spring, she has been studying abroad at University College Dublin.

Amy Robinson (ENGR ’18), from Old Saybrook, CT, is a sophomore honors student in electrical engineering with a keen interest in motor efficiency.  She aspires to earn a PhD with a focus in renewable energy.  Currently, she is involved in Advanced Power Electronics and Electric Drives Laboratory of Dr. Ali Bazzi at UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering.  There, she is assisting a PhD student in modelling the effect of geometry on a switch reluctance motor’s magnetic field and power capabilities and independently researching causes of stray losses in induction motors. Amy is also a member of the Formula SAE team, which each year designs, builds and races a Formula-Style car for competition. When she’s not playing with motors, Amy is an advocate for ConnPIRG’s Hunger and Homelessness campaign.  Through ConnPIRG, she also petitioned for a go-Solar initiative, lobbying to incorporate solar power into UConn’s grid.  A proud member of the Society of Women Engineers, she has volunteered to encourage other young women to share her passion for alternative energy research.  A dedicated scholar-athlete and environmentalist, Amy was Captain of Old Saybrook High School’s Track Team where she also led the school’s recycling effort. At the college level, she is a Presidential Scholar and a New England Scholar, and is a rower on UConn’s D1 Women’s Crew Team.

Nicholas Russo (CLAS ’18) is a sophomore honors student with an “innate desire to lead people into the woods.” A resident of N. Scituate, RI, Nick came to UConn as a STEM Scholar with a background rich in environmental science and education. In 2012, he was awarded 1st Grant at the RI State Science and Engineering Fair for a project determining that ascorbic acid content of white pine needles correlates to soil pH.  As an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, he has worked in the lab of Dr. Mark Urban, sorting and recording zooplankton samples and is secretary of the Genetic Engineering Team.  As a summer 2015 Holster Scholar, he conducted his own research project, with mentorship from EEB’s Dr. Morgan Tingley and Dr. Carole Cheah at the CT Agricultural Experiment Station, to study the role of birds in dispersing the woolly adelgid (which is threatening the eastern hemlock). Nick has been very active with the Audubon Society, both in Rhode Island and in Connecticut and is President of UConn’s Birding Club. He has also participated in the HASB New Orleans Alternative Spring Break and the New London Alternative Weekend and is a member of the Kayaking Club. This summer, he will continue his research as a UConn IDEA Grant recipient.


2016 Goldwater Nominees

Each year, universities may nominate up to four sophomores or juniors to compete in the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship Competition.  For more information about UConn’s nomination process and the scholarship itself, click HERE.  This year’s nominees include one sophomore and three juniors from a variety of STEM disciplines.  Each satisfied the Goldwater’s criteria of academic excellence, demonstrate research experience and potential, and the desire to earn a PhD in their field.  Also vital is the strong support of their faculty mentors. Nominees will have until January 22, 2016 to complete the national application.  Results will be posted at or around April 1, 2016.

Adrian J. Coscia (CLAS ’17) from Greenwich, CT, is an honors molecular and cell biology student. Adrian aspires to earn an MD/PhD in biophysics and biochemistry, and to develop therapeutics as a biomedical researcher. He is currently conducting research with Dr. Nathan Alder, an associate professor of molecular and cell biology, investigating the structure and function of the ERMES protein complex. Under the direction of Dr. Sharon Smith, professor of pediatrics at the UConn School of Medicine, Adrian also serves as a clinical research assistant in the emergency department at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. In this regard he is responsible for conducting, and enrolling patients in, a variety of clinical research studies. His freshman year, he also worked with Dr. Deborah Shelton, professor of nursing, where he contributed to a publication addressing the available treatment options for psychopathy in forensic populations. Eager to further develop both his breadth and depth of research experience, Adrian serves as the vice president of the UConn Genetic Engineering Team. Working closely with Dr. Rachel O’Neill, he helps lead and develop the team’s research project in the Institute for Systems Genomics. Recently selected as a University Scholar, UConn’s highest academic distinction, he has also earned recognition as a Babbidge Scholar. He is also the recipient of the Academic Excellence Scholarship, and was awarded the Dr. Jack T. Sanderson Memorial Award by MagneTek and the Spire Corporation for excellence in the study and teaching of science. On campus he extends his passion for the outdoors, music, and science, having participated in the UConn Ski and Snowboard, Outing, and SCUBA clubs, the concert band, and as a TedxUConn organizer

Cameron Timothy Flower (ENG ’17) from Burlington, CT, is an honors student majoring in biomedical engineering and pursuing minors in bioinformatics, information technology, and computer science. Cameron aspires to earn a Ph.D. in computational biology, building on his profound interest in the development of computational methods to improve personalized therapies using genome sequencing data.  Following his freshman year at UConn, Cameron was selected to work as a student researcher under Dr. Pramod Srivastava in the Center for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Infectious Diseases at UConn Health. Under the guidance of Dr. Srivastava, Cameron spent the summer of 2014 studying the immunogenicity of predicted tumor-specific cell markers, called neoepitopes, derived from a chemically induced sarcoma using a mouse model. It was in this setting that Cameron realized his own passion for scientific investigation, and grew interested in the computational methods and pipelines developed to predict candidate neoepitopes for personalized cancer vaccines. Throughout his sophomore year, Cameron performed statistical analysis for a study to determine the physiological mechanisms of fatigue and oxygen toxicity under Dr. Ki Chon in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Last year Cameron was recognized with the Deligeorges Family Scholarship in Biomedical Engineering for his work under Dr. Chon. Cameron continued his research under Dr. Srivastava and Dr. Sahar Al Seesi over the summer of 2015, conducting a computational study to investigate the immune evasion of melanoma tumors by differential gene expression analysis. He presented his work, titled “Melanoma Immune Evasion: A Computational Investigation of Differential Gene Expression” at UConn Health and at the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research poster exhibition. A dedicated scholar in the laboratory and the classroom, Cameron has earned the distinction of Babbidge Scholar and has been inducted into multiple reputable honor societies. He currently serves as the Vice President of the UConn chapter of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, the national honor society of biomedical engineering, and was recently inducted into Tau Beta Pi, the oldest and most prestigious engineering honor society in the U.S.

John Michael Ovian (CLAS ’17) from Madison, CT, is an honors student pursuing dual B.S./M.S. degrees in chemistry. John plans on earning a Ph.D. in chemistry upon graduation. Working in the laboratory of Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater in the Department of Chemistry, his research has focused generally on organic methodology development, with the overarching goal of making organic synthesis a more environmentally friendly field. To this end, he works with an oxoammonium salt oxidant (known as Bobbitt’s Salt), which is safe, environmentally benign, and recyclable. As a Holster Scholar he spent the summer after his freshman year probing the mechanism of oxoammonium salt oxidations and developing a method to cleave allyl ethers to their corresponding carbonyl species. These projects were published in the peer-reviewed journals, The Journal of Organic Chemistry and Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, respectively. Additionally, he has developed a method for the direct oxidative conversion of aldehydes to nitriles, which was published in the leading chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, and also a method for oxidative ring opening of cyclic ethers, will be submitted for review soon. He has been awarded several Office of Undergraduate Research grants and presented numerous poster and oral presentations. This past summer, John worked in the laboratory of Dr. Neil Garg at UCLA as a part of the prestigious Amgen Scholars Program. Recently, John was selected as a University Scholar, where his project involves merging photocatalysis with oxoammonium salt chemistry. He also possesses a passion for teaching and mentoring his peers and is a teaching assistant for both the honors organic and general chemistry sequences, as well as a Peer Research Ambassador and Peer Allies Through Honors mentor. John enjoys singing as the music director of Extreme Measures, one of UConn’s premier co-ed a cappella groups.

Shaharyar Zuberi (CLAS ’17) from Rocky Hill, CT, is an honors student majoring in physiology and neurobiology with a minor in psychology. He started research his freshman year when he worked with Dr. William Barta in UConn’s Center for Correctional Health Networks studying DUI recidivism. He then worked in the Translational Research and Neural Stimulation lab under Dr. Chi-Ming Chen in the psychology department studying the mechanisms of auditory hallucinations in patients with Schizophrenia. This research experience allowed Shaharyar to take part in the Undergraduate Student Scholars Program at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania during the summer of 2015. Here, he worked in the lab of Dr. John Lynch in the Gastroenterology department, using the CRISPR-Cas9 system, a revolutionary tool in the field of genetic engineering, to model Barrett’s Esophagus in vitro.  Shaharyar currently works in the lab of Dr. Joanne Conover on a project studying reactive astrogliosis and glial scar formation, a physiological phenomenon in which astrocytes undergo a variety of genetic and morphological changes in response to neurological injury. He hopes to continue research in the field of neurodegeneration as he enters medical school. Shaharyar is also a member of UConn Empower and serves as the CFO for TEDxUConn. A Babbidge scholar and recipient of the Lt. Paul Drotch Memorial Scholarship, Shaharyar was recently selected to be a University Scholar, UConn’s highest academic distinction.